Welcome to the 4th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants! The rules are below.
Hunter Pence is back and we are in awe of Brandon Crawford
This has been a good road trip for the G-Men. A split with the Astros and taking three out of four against the Reds, a team that usually hits the snot out of the ball at Riverfront stadium, except that for this series the Giants were the big boppers, with multiple HR’s and double digit scoring for the first time this season. The Giants really like Riverfront and a lot of guys (not named McGehee) got very healthy there.
The biggest news of the road trip was Hunter Pence coming back from the DL and his broken arm (early for the Saturday game) and raring to play. The storyline was that Hunter was hitting the ball hard in Sacramento for the Rivercats and texted just about everyone on the team (including Bochy) telling them that he was an “offensive machine” and ready to go. He was not lying: 2 for 3 on Saturday night and 2 for 4 with a dinger today. How long he can stay at .500 with a 1.000 slugging percentage is anyone’s guess but welcome back Hunter Pence – he is energy personified.
Hector Sanchez went back to Sacramento when Pence came up (good, Hector needs to play and Susac is the better catcher right now) and Maxwell went to the bench where he will be a dependable power bat in pinch-hitting situations. This is a much more well- rounded team than it has been for the last month without Pence.
Good hitting is contagious. Belt (“Mr. Streaky Hitter”) suddenly got hot, hit three HR’s in Cincinnati and is batting .321. But the real story is Brandon Crawford, .285 BA, 6 HR’s, 8 doubles, running away with the team lead in RBI’s with 25 and playing all-star caliber shortstop. It does seem that that a couple of grand slams helps the RBI totals. Let us not forget Aoki, Pagan, Duffy and Panik - all doing well and playing solid baseball. Buster, as always, is in a league of his own – and he does own Riverfront.
The bullpen continues to be the strength of the Giants, who have played in (and won) more one-run games (usually low scoring – this trip was an aberration) than any other team in MLB. Casilla’s three K’s today in the 9th inning on 9 pitches was about as inspiring as a bullpen can get, especially after watching Chapman blow 102 mph heaters past the Giants hitters and still getting touched for hits. The starting pitching is also coming around. Bum is rounding into mid-season form and the other starters (including Heston who had a complete game in Texas but got knocked out in the third inning today) are delivering 5 or 6 good innings, which sets up the bullpen. We are seeing the beginning of a pattern that might hold throughout this season. I still don’t trust Vogelsong but he has looked real good in his last two starts.
Right now though, it’s all good.
Good Defense, good pitching, timely hitting and above .500 in second place in the NL West
The mantra of the season will be good defense, good pitching and timely hitting. While it seems like we should care a lot more about the obscene number of runners left on base in scoring position, or the low team BA, or (until the recent series and ignoring Buster Posey) the incredible lack of power, the fact that the G-Men are two games over .500 and behind the Dodgers in second place the NL West is something that would have seemed like a pipedream three weeks ago And, as noted below, the LA team is coming into town on Tuesday night for a 3-game series (which will culminate on Thursday with another Bumgarner/Kershaw shootout).
The two biggest lingering questions that I see right now are: (1) what is going to happen when Cain comes back and will he be the Matt Cain of old, and (2) when is Bochy going to get fed up and lose all patience with McGehee, who is still hitting below the Mendoza line and is on track for the all-time MLB record for hitting into double plays. Even when he hit his grand slam on the last home stand (nice to be sure) he followed it in the same game with two more double plays.
Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that Matt Duffy (the “Duff Man”) shouldn’t be our starting third baseman?
The Upcoming Series against the Dodgers – early season at the OK corral?
This may be the most important early three game series of the year. First the G-Men swept the Dodgers at home in April to break the losing streak and start what is now a really impressive winning streak but then lost two out of three at Chavez Ravine. These three games will either tighten up the NL West and show the Dodgers what a world series championship team can do when clicking on all cylinders, or it will showcase the powerful offensive Juggernaut that is the team that shall not be named and further separate them from the pack. Get ready for fireworks.
After this series the G-Men go on the road to face the Rockies (will they – or can they? - trade Troy is the question there) in Colorado and then onto the Braves in Atlanta for another Tim Hudson homecoming.
It’s time for baseball!
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!